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Wife discovers husband’s long-term infidelity, inflicts pain on entire family |
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Wife discovers husband’s long-term infidelity, inflicts pain on entire family

Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

Cast: Wife of 33 years and mother of three; all of whom are college-educated and in careers. Husband, worked out-of-town during the week for the majority of the years.

Scene: Wife, who is not a suspicious woman — too busy rearing children alone — has a “feeling” and decides, for the first time, to look into husband’s phone. Pandora’s Box opens to reveal infidelities that go back at least 20 years, even though husband never stopped having sex with wife.

Scene: Wife, a business-minded woman, says nothing and becomes a sleuth: GPS attached, phone uploaded (including all deleted information), profiles on his “dating” sites, etc. Husband has not been confronted as wife compiles dossier.

Scene: Wife, without husband knowing, thinks she should disclose to all participants’ husbands, boyfriends and families the infidelities that were perpetrated at wife’s expense. Defamation is not a concern as wife has the facts to support. Slowly and methodically, information is divulged that makes their affairs come to light. Surprise!

Questions: Shouldn’t all the players’ lives be altered as the wife’s life has been? Shouldn’t these people, without concern for wife and children — whom some met — be exposed for what they are?

Please don’t advise karma, therapy, divorce, the price of revenge. Whatever wife decides to do about the marriage isn’t relevant, this is about leveling the playing field.

— Anonymous

You suffered devastating pain, which no one deserves. I’m sorry that happened to you.

You responded, though, by inflicting pain, just for the sake of inflicting pain, which nothing justifies. You leveled the playing field with firebombs and calculated fury.

And without apology or apparent remorse.

Even though such payback never affects only the guilty, but also the people who love them. Innocents all.

He did this to you, with them, yes — but you ensured that everyone affected got the most information in the worst way possible.

Yet I can’t talk about karma, therapy or the price of revenge?

Does that mean you’ve written only to invite applause?

I have none. I have only dismay at reading of a person who apparently worked hard for an entire lifetime to build good things, and then, under the influence of incendiary rage, turned destructive as if these were movie people and feelings, not real ones.

I know you don’t want help.

But I hope you cool down enough to see the wisdom of getting it, professionally and soon.


Dear Carolyn:

I do not like to host parties at my home. I am not an amazing cook — or even a good one — despite trying. While I am very Type A/organized, I never seem to possess the right platters, utensils, table decor, etc. If it were up to me, we’d just dine out, but this has not been received well (for many reasons).

My daughter is 2 and we have a close group of friends we regularly meet for brunch and play dates. It’s my turn to host; the pressure is on. My husband loves to entertain so I feel inclined to make these events special for everyone.

Given my daughter’s tender age, I have many, many more events ahead of us … how do I become a better host?

— Hostess With the Leastess

You … let the spouse who loves to entertain do the bulk of the planning and cooking? And volunteer to be the best sous chef and errand-runner you can be?

Or, if he’s as hamstrung as you are, you order takeout/catering trays and “dine out” in your own home?

And let go of the idea of “right” party implements because, as long as they’re able to get food in their mouths and not on their laps, your guests won’t care, so you’re A-OK?

In fact, let’s go for Type-A-OK:

You apparently have a perfectionist streak. Meaning, give or take, you have a specific vision of how things are supposed to be, put significant pressure on yourself (and others?) to bring that vision to life, and feel unworthy when you fall short.

If you let your unachievable standards talk you out of trying, then you will feel bad for letting your friends and husband down (plus you’ll always get hosted but never host, which wears down friendships). If you agree to host and try to achieve those standards, then you will stress yourself out and, even if you strike “perfect,” pass your stress on to your guests.

So the pragmatic answer is to remind yourself what guests actually need, baseline, and aim only for that. Guests who are warmly welcomed and generously fed are ones who have been hosted properly. Steal liberally from the playbooks of your favorite casual hosts.

Then talk to your husband. Ask whether he has ideas for getting what he wants — to entertain often, presumably — without its costing your nerves more than they can afford. The overlap is your target for Type-A-OK, where you organize carefully and cooperatively to achieve two or three things, versus 12. Your new mantra: Practice makes good enough.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook or chat with her online at noon each Friday at

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